After having a discussion about the Godfather, Goodfellas (two of the best films ever made, especially Goodfellas and my hard on for Scorcese!), Casino and the Sopranos I started thinking about what it is about these stories that I love and I have to add one into the mix.
Wait for it. . . General Hospital, yes a soap, a daytime drama. Can you believe it?
I have been obsessed with GH this year and I joke about Dominic Zamprogna (of Battlestar Galactica) being the reason, but good looks only get me so far.
It is the storyline of Sonny Corinthos that is so amazing. Maurice Benard does an excellent job of making this mob boss lovable. Yes he orders hits on people and yes he makes all his money through extortion, robbery and drugs, but we still love him. We, the audience care about him. Why? This character is so well written that you can't help yourself. Like Tony Soprano, Sonny is all about his family. This is a family man. There is nothing he won't do for his family and the show is written in a way that really gets that point across. As well as putting his family first, he always helps his friends and the community. He donated heaps of money to build an AIDS wing at General Hospital, and he also opened a head trauma specialist unit after his son Michael was shot and put into a coma. He has worked his whole life keeping his family as his first priority and that is why we love him. Add to the fact that he is bi-polar and struggling with his own demons makes him the mobster with the heart of gold.
The current storyline is woven around him, his ex girlfriend from high school-the son they had together who is now working undercover to bring him down and of course he doesn't know this, and the Zacchara family. What I love about the undercover storylines is that the person undercover always learns about who they are bringing down and if done well you are rooting for both sides. Examples of this are: Wiseguy (TV show) and Donnie Brasco. This GH story is so well done that it would make a great film if self contained and put on the big screen and that is why I tune in every night.
Moving on. Tony Soprano, best written character in the history of television. You take this mob boss who will kill without even thinking about it, and cheat on his wife because he loves the power, and put him in a shrink's office talking about his feelings and you realize, "omg, he is a person." The Sopranos was truly groundbreaking in the way that Tony got you the minute you meet him. He cared about animals, much like Vito Corleone did and when the audience sees that, we immediately care. It is a subtle trick, but it works. Tony puts his family first, always and they did an amazing job of taking a show about family and setting it into this dangerous, and very real world, and they made you care about him.
Now Michael Corleone, who I believe to be the "hero" so to speak of the Godfather series (1 & 2 only), got lost and lost control of his family and let the power take him over. He even ordered a hit on his own brother, but why do we still care? Because we go through it with him. The death of Vito and his rise to power when he wasn't ready was told so well that your heart breaks for Michael, over and over and over.
Henry Hill, pretty much a dickhead, but still you watch Goodfellas and you care about him. Robert De Niro as Sam Rothstein (a.ka. Ace) in Casino (Scorcese) is also someone you care about. You see his life unfold and you care until the very end.
So what is it about these mobsters that makes us love them? It's all about family and great writing~